Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been in the eye of a huge political storm for the past few months. The opposition has been baying for his blood since March 8, when the motion of no-confidence was submitted before the National Assembly Secretariat. Khan, however, has proved to be a tough nut to crack. Before the opposition could table the no-confidence motion, he stepped down after recommending to the President that the National Assembly be dissolved, and fresh elections are ordered. At the behest of Khan, the Deputy Speaker declared the motion unconstitutional and part of a plot by “foreign powers” to interfere in Pakistan’s democracy. Thus, Khan unseated all of his political detractors in a single swift move.
Earlier, Speaker Asad Qaiser had delayed the crucial session of the National Assembly to take on the no-confidence motion on the premise that the country was hosting a conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad and that it would be prudent to avoid the abrasive political activity during that period. He delayed it again for another three days due to the death of a Member of Parliament, Khayal Zaman, since conventions dictate that no parliamentary business is done in the first session after the demise of one of its members.
The above was also done to give Khan and his party time to convince some parliamentarians and members of his party to relent. However, the move did not pay the necessary dividends, which indicated that Imran Khan no longer had a firm grip on his party or the fair-weather allies that he had cobbled up to get the premiership. The opposition, on its part, created a lot of hues and cries over the delays and did not allow the proceeds to be derailed.
Now that the National Assembly stands dissolved, the frustrated opposition and the Supreme Court Bar Council have appealed to the Supreme Court against what they deem to be an arbitrary action of the National Assembly’s Deputy Speaker. Not much, however, is likely to come of this appeal, and the opposition will probably not be able to place a premier of its choice at the helm before the next elections are held.
For Pakistan, where no premier has completed his term since the inception of the country, the silver lining is that technically speaking, Khan has broken the tradition and completed his term despite it being considerably truncated.
The all-powerful deep state (Pakistan Army) has chosen to remain aloof and unbiased through this political drama. This is, of course, a mere veneer since the universal opinion is that Khan met his nemesis due to his differences with the Pakistan Army Chief, General Bajwa and the United States
The all-powerful deep state (Pakistan Army) has chosen to remain aloof and unbiased through this political drama. This is, of course, a mere veneer since the universal opinion is that Khan met his nemesis due to his differences with the Pakistan Army Chief, General Bajwa and the United States.
General Bajwa was upset with Khan because of his opposition to the General getting a third term in office and his favourable disposition towards Lt General Faiz Hameed, the former DG ISI (now Corps Commander), who holds ambitions of becoming the next Army Chief. Notably, the second term of General Bajwa as Army Chief culminates in November 2022, and there is no precedent in the country of any Army Chief getting more than two terms unless, of course, they become dictators.
There is also a technical hitch in the ambitions of General Bajwa insofar that he can get only about 17 months of extension as rules allow a Chief to serve only till 64 years of age. The requisite ordinance passed in Parliament will need to be modified for a further extension, which can be done only if a pliable prime minister and government are in place. General Bajwa would have considered the coup option but shed it for lack of support from within the establishment, hence, the eagerness to remove Khan.
Imran Khan’s favour towards China and Russia, bolstered by his aggressive rhetoric, caused alarm in the United States and the west, who, in turn, resolved to see the back of the premier. They actively stoked and encouraged the opposition while the Pakistan Army turned a blind eye. The sudden unity within the opposition and the series of desertions within Khan’s party (PTI) and coalition partners cannot be seen as an act of fate alone; it resulted from a well-conceived game plan.
Khan and his supporters, including the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, have been quite vocal in talking about this “foreign hand.” Russia, too has, in recent days, accused the United States of committing “another attempt of shameless interference” in the internal affairs of Pakistan to punish a “disobedient” Imran Khan for not supporting the US position on Ukraine. The US has, of course, refuted these allegations.
Under the circumstances, there is no doubt left in anybody’s mind about how the upcoming elections in Pakistan will play out. The need to have an independent foreign policy will surely be the plank on which Khan will fight the next elections; he may well succeed without the support of the Army, which will mean the breaking of yet another “tradition” in the country.
If things do not fall in place as perceived by the Army, the possibility of martial rule will come to the fore yet again. Pakistan’s political instability invariably leads to a radical posture being adopted against India to divert attention. This becomes more dangerous due to the danger of nuclear assets falling into the wrong hands. Therefore, the world must be wary of the events that unfold in Pakistan in the coming days and ensure that a misadventure of epic proportions does not cause an unmitigated disaster within the country and out of it.